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Aligning with the troops in Iraq

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The challenge for the left is keeping up opposition to the war in Iraq without alienating those whose natural instinct is to back the American position, right or wrong, while rejecting all critics. Step one, Knightdale's Bridgett Burge thinks, is to align with the troops in Iraq and make their cause our cause. For the anti-war movement in North Carolina, that's not a new approach. But it takes on new urgency now that the national elections are lost. "We need to keep putting our energies behind groups like Military Families Speak Out (mfso.org) and Bring Them Home Now (bringthemhomenow.org), says Burge, who heads the N.C. Peace Action Education Fund. "We need to keep showing that we're right there with them" as they work to make ending the war a pro-military, pro-American cause.

Opponents of the war are scheduled to get together in Fayetteville on Saturday, Nov. 20, at the Cumberland County Public Library, 300 Maiden Lane, to talk about next steps. (For info, contact Lou Plummer at lou.plummer@mac.com.)

Among the hosts: Lou Plummer, a military vet whose son is serving in the Navy now in Iraq; he's on the national coordinating committee of Bring Them Home Now.

A continuing problem, Burge says, is untangling the knotted policies contained in the Bush Administration's "war on terror."

"We need to reframe the issues so we can speak our truth," she says. "The 'war on terror' is really a brilliant concept, because it implies a never-ending battle that's mobile--you can take it anywhere and apply it to different situations forever."

People hoping that John Kerry's election would achieve the reframing need some "space to vent," she agrees. "I hear the slogan, 'Don't Mourn, Organize!' and I think, well, go ahead and mourn a little. Then organize."

Others, though, understood that whatever the election outcome, the war would continue with an enormous toll on military families. Burge's own family is one. Her 3-year-old son Jacob's paternal grandfather is on his second tour of duty in the Gulf as a member of the Navy Reserves. He tried to retire after his first stint. "Stop-loss" kept him in, and sent him over for another.

"Associating with him and with the troops is what feels right to me personally and politically," Burge says. "And it also has the benefit of associating the anti-war movement with movements for people of color and working people," since they make up the bulk of military families.

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